At home in Hoi An, in central Vietnam, the typhoons came early bringing heavy rains and strong winds which was both an experience and shock as the rains seem like they would never stop, given the previous winter it had hardly rained. Even our local Vietnamese neighbors were shocked as well, by the amount of rain and flooding, we later learned it had been the worst flooding in 15 years in central Vietnam.
One of the reasons we had come to Asia was to leave behind the cold European winters, Phu Quoc island was the perfect anecdote to the grey skies and the damp weather in Hoi An.
Phu Quoc lies on the southern tip of Vietnam, in fact sitting closer to Cambodia than Vietnam but only accessible from Vietnam, just 1.5 hr flight from Danang or a very short 30 mins flight from HCMC.
Our first week was spent on the less developed East coast of the island at Naomi Resort. Most of the east coast is made up of family-run guesthouses and small resorts, it has a low key feel, with resorts dotted between the fishing villages.
Exploring Phu Quoc Island East Coast
Scooters are the best way to get around and see the island, on the first day of the trip we rented scooters from the resort to go exploring. First, heading north along a quiet road to the most northern tip of the island with fantastic views across to the water to Cambodia.
2020 has been a tough year for tourism businesses all over the world due to the global pandemic. However, as we have witnessed all over Vietnam, the people are extremely resilient and adapt and evolve to circumstances thrown at them, rarely complaining and offering what they can.
Travel for us has always been about actively seeking out offbeat places, slightly off the tourist trail, our first day on Phu Quoc was no different. We found what we thought was a closed cafe from the roadside. We decided to see whether they were open at the back and to see the view over the water and towards Cambodia. After going down some steps, we found the owners, who invited us to sit on their porch and were happy to serve us drinks still, we had two Cafe Sua, the local Vietnamese iced coffee.
Meanwhile, Bella and Maya found two of the neighbour’s puppies and sat contentedly playing with them.
After about 15 minutes the elderly couple’s granddaughter returned home from school for lunch. She confidently came over to us and started chatting telling us her name and using google translate to communicate with us.
We showed them a photo of a long snake we spotted crossing the road, this led to a big conversation about snakes and they showed us a photo of a 4-meter long python found in a tree near their family home. This led to a lot of laughing and whooing, and us telling them, yes it’s so big and scary! These small natural connections with local people, always seem to make our travel experiences so worthwhile and memorable.
Ho Quoc Pagoda
One of our favorite days out on the motorbike was to the beautiful Ho Quoc Pagoda on the west coast of the island with a huge commanding white Quan Am statue looking towards the water.
It is the largest temple on the island and definitely worth visiting. We have seen many Buddhist temples during our travels in Southeast Asia, they always seem to have a calming influence and allow for a little inward reflection and contemplation, this one was no different.
Sao Beach (Bai Sao)
Another road trip on our motorbikes this time was to Sao beach tipped as one of the most beautiful beaches on the island and located in the Southeastern corner of the island.
The beach is stunning; white powdery sand, fringed by palm trees. As with many beaches in Vietnam, the development is marching on, and especially at the moment, it is targeting the local market with huge fish restaurants and lots of jet skis and paragliding.
The northern end of the beach, is quieter and less developed, as of yet there aren’t any big resorts, so my advice visit now.
Suoi Tranh Waterfall
For a change of scene, we had geared up to do some trekking into the jungle to see a Suio Tranh waterfall. On arriving we missed the turn off from the main road, because it looked like a theme park. Then we realized that it was the waterfall entrance, and it wasn’t just a waterfall, it was so much more.
At Suoi Tranh Waterfall they have created a cultural heritage park, including a marked path leading up to the waterfall and wild animal statues hidden in the forest.
There were also replicas of traditional ingenious houses and cultural exhibits plus a restaurant.
Bella and Maya adored this park and created there own make-believe games, discovering all the animal statues in the forest, the girls couldn’t resist a dip in some of the shallow rock pools as well. We would have stayed longer and trekked to the top of the waterfall, but we were being attacked by mosquitoes.
My advice, bring long-sleeved clothes and mosquito repellent. This is a great place to spend an afternoon away from the beach with kids. For the 30,000 Dong entrance fee is was well worth a visit.
Art workshops as family with D Art Social
A complete surprise activity at Naomi Resort was an afternoon of learning to paint with D Art Social.
This was such an enjoyable way to spend an afternoon and learn something new, we did it as a family creating together was so fun. It was engaging for both us and the girls and we all learned so much, and were all rather shocked how well our final piece of art work turned out.
Thanks to our patient teacher Linda, it has also sparked my creative side and I plan to do more painting in the future. Both our daughters are artistic and loved painting with acrylics and learning different brush techniques.
Eating Out on the Island
On the east coast of the island, there are plenty of seafood restaurants serving local dishes and specialties. The nearby fishing town of Ham Ninh is where the fishermen bring in the local catch. It’s a lively town with a big market and is worth having a look around, just to experience the local culture.
More western food options can be found at Naomi resort as well as at Rorey’s beach bar, which has some unusual seawater pools and rocks to play on for the kids. We went for their pizza night and enjoyed friendly and good service. There is also crazy golf out the back, it’s a great place to take the kids, as there is lots of space and things to do.
Where To Stay – Naomi Resort
Naomi Resort sits in an ideal location set in the middle of the East Coast near the town of Ham Ninh, as you enter the resort it’s a tranquil paradise with gardens and a pool. However, the most unusual part of the resort is the long wooden pier and deck with overwater bungalows and swings and a hammock which were so fun and exciting for our girls to try out.
The resort is family-owned by a young couple Trang and Vu who are so friendly and welcoming: they opened the resort just a few months before COVID19 hit and have been doing a fantastic job of re-training new staff as the holiday season and tourism picks up a little on Phu Quoc. They both have the right attitude and nothing is too much trouble and they picked friendly and diligent staff.
Of course anybody that has kids, knows that if there is a swimming pool the kids want to spend 90% of the day in it. This in fact allowed Marco and I to relax, so that’s exactly what we did for a few days at Naomi. Although we were on the seafront with a small beach, which also had paddle boarding from the small pier. Unfortunatley the week was unusually windy and the sea was too rough for swimming and paddle boarding.
We opted for the deluxe double room, which had a huge terrace, and even a kitchen which enabled us to cook a simple dinner when the girls were simply too tired to venture out. With the deluxe room there was also ample room for the girls to sleep on the sofa bed. The rooms have an ensuite bathroom with a bath, which was a luxury we enjoyed and hadn’t experienced for a while in Hoi An.
I pleased to report Phu Quoc isn’t just about resorts, happy hours and lazy days on the beach. There is lots to do and see on the island.
Overall we had a great stay at Naomi Resort; we even got to stay in their overwater bungalows, which was such a unique experience especially for the girls.
Their favourite thing to do was look through the window in the floor at sea below. In the evenings there is also something very special about being on the water, its calming and relaxing.
And this is the drone video fromn our overwater bungalow..
The East Coast of the island is wonderful for people wanting to get away from the busy crowds and experience a more authentic part of the island that hasn’t been tarnished yet, by mass tourism.
Also if you prefer to stay in smaller family-run resorts and homestays you have a huge number of options. I would recommend Naomi Resort, Trang, and Vu the owners are so friendly and helpful.
If you do want to a little sightseeing the best way to get around is by motorbike, which you can hire directly from the resort.